Wednesday 16 September 2009

The whole truth.

While looking after my friends’ gorgeous (and frighteningly well behaved) kids last weekend, I simultaneously managed to traumatise a three-year-old boy and get to the truth of a question I’d never have got an honest answer to otherwise.

It was 5.40am. Ten minutes after Charlie and Felix had woken up in fits of excitement at the imminent trip to Legoland. Now, I’m not one for getting up at 5.30 (hell, I’m not even one for getting up at 8.30), so to say I was bleary eyed may be something of an understatement. With Charlie watching something trippy and brightly coloured on the television, singing along to something I could only pin down as S Club 7 on speed, Felix was taking his opportunity to use me as an adventure playground, dangling from the straps of my nightie as he clambered up his human climbing wall. Which was when he caught sight of the nupple.

‘Oh,’ he said shocked, his tiny bare feet landing back on the wooden floor. Through double vision I spotted the direction of his terrified eyes and hurriedly readjusted my sleepwear so that the egde of my reconstructed nipple was no longer showing. (If this had been my right nipple, of course, I’d have been able to tell immediately that it was revealing itself. But with my mastectomy having left me with zero feeling in my left side, there’s no way of knowing whether it’s safely tucked away or proudly peeping out for the whole world to see. I might be spending my lunchtime strolls flashing my left’un round Soho for all I know. Not that anyone there would bat an eyelid.) ‘Auntie Lisa?’ asked Felix, puzzled. I froze, frantically searching my brain for Fibs You Tell Kids, but stalling at the ice-cream-man-only-plays-a-tune-when-he's-run-out line. ‘Oh fucking fuck,’ I thought to myself, managing at least to keep my expletives under wraps. 

And then came the innocent query: ‘Why is your boobie broken?’ And there it was. After months of staring at it in the mirror and pestering my husband to tell me what he really thinks of my tattooed non-nipple, I finally got my answer. And given that it came from an as-yet-cancer-uneducated little boy, I think we can safely say that it’s as frank a verdict as I’m likely to get.

‘Erm, it was poorly for a while,’ I explained, not wanting to ruin his day any further by bringing The Bullshit into the equation. ‘But now it’s better. And it’ll keep getting better. Nothing to worry about,’ I added.

With Charlie still singing in the next room, Felix ran through to join his big brother. ‘Bloody hell,’ said P, joining me in the bedroom after taking out our equally drained and disturbed cat. ‘5.30! How do Jon and Suze do it?’ I didn't look up from my perched spot on the edge of the bed, despite suddenly being more awake than even the singing kids. ‘Hang on, what’s up?’ asked P. I fixed his gaze. ‘The nupple. Felix saw the nupple,’ I admitted. ‘Fuck,’ he said. ‘Yes, fuck,’ I agreed. ‘And he said it looked broken.’ P tilted his head. ‘Aw,’ he replied. ‘Broken,’ I repeated. ‘Broken. I’m getting a shower.’

And so I left P with the kids while I tearfully stared at my broken nupple in the bathroom mirror. ‘Yep,’ I said to my reflection, thinking back to my post-nipple-tattooing blog post. ‘Like putting lipstick on a pig.’ 

Trouble is, I suspect I’m now not the only one who’s scarred for life…


kelly said...

I think you handled it well and I will bet he is not scarred at all by the experience.

Also, he may not have had the vocabulary to express that he knows that something is different but not quite what. "Broken" might mean something very different to him than it would to you or I.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I don't agree with you. Yes - kids are often a very effective barometer but often we over interpret their innocence. The truth is that children will report on anything that is different to what they have already experienced. I have had EXACTLY the same experience as you in an M&S changing room with my friends 3 year old. The same bemused expression followed by the "why do your boobies look like that?". I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with my pink 10 pence coin sized nipples they are just very different to her Mothers brown fist sized pair. I'm sorry that this episode made you feel like this but it doesn't mean that Felix was right. xxx

Emma said...

bran flakes are chocolate cornflakes is another great fib to tell kids ;)

lilianavonk said...

{{massive hugs}}

Though IMO, the sooner that Felix and Charlie (as well as all kids) learn that humans come in a variety of shapes, sizes and variations, the better.

I think you handled your response to him beautifully, though, and that--along with the way you've demonstrated your typical wit, humour and heart with this post--is yet further reason why I count you as one of my heroes.

MBNAD woman said...

I go with lilianavonk here. He's not scarred for life and it's part of his experience to learn that people come in all varieties and that we learn to deal with each of them for who they are not their external wrappings.

Last year, I had 92 holes in my right leg. When I was recovering and was at the gym, a small child stared fascinatedly at the surgeon's handiwork. I smiled back happy to engage her if she asked me a question. Then I realised that her bloody mother was staring open-mouthed as well. But not in an interested, compassionate way. I smiled brightly and said "impetigo" and waltzed off.

You handled the situation just right. Enough info and not too much. And in language he understood.

I am sorry that it has made you feel so low, though.

Mad x

Narelle Cunningham said...

As far as I see it, your nupple isn’t broken - it’s been upgraded!

alex said...

I hate to say it but Felix was sort of right. Ol' leftie ain't what she used to be or like other people's and, while I'm no doctor, I don't know that it ever will be. It's a horrible truth. You went to war with The Bullshit and you didn't escape unscathed. But you fucking won. You survived.

All the other posters are right about Felix: you did him a big favour, the more he realises people are different inside and out the more tolerant he'll be. Just think, you could have saved countless daddy longlegs from being mutilated when he thinks of his Auntie Lisa! I wish I could do something about how this makes you feel though. But I can't, and I would feel exactly the same way as you, no amount of people telling beauty is skin deep etc. would change that. I hope time does.


Anonymous said...

Oh Maclet… brilliantly dealt with, particularly at 5.30am, but pants all the same. As to whether you walk around Soho with one boob out, I’ve heard rumours… love you x

Chapati said...

I think you handled the situation really well, and I agree with the comments above - kids will comment on anything that looks even remotely different from what they normally see. I mean, I was asked by one why I had brown skin instead of white!

Chapati said...

I think you handled the situation really well, and I agree with the comments above - kids will comment on anything that looks even remotely different from what they normally see. I mean, I was asked by one why I had brown skin instead of white!

RandomPinkness said...

I have to agree with the first comment, broken to him probably just means looks different to the one's he's seen before. It reminds me when I was at Lowther Park (in Cumbira) with a neighbour and her children, the little girl who was about 4 saw a Pakistani family and asked "What's wrong with them?" As she'd never seen someone who wasn't white.

billy said...

Hi Lisa

You've got some great friends who are all trying to make you feel better. But your nupple will never be what you want it to be and however much you get on with it you still have to live with that loss. It is ok to be sad sometimes you know.

MFA Mama said...

I think you handled it beautifully and I don't think Felix will be scarred for life. I have three boys (8, 5, and 4) and stopped walking around naked in front of them when they turned about two-ish (not condemning anyone who's less of a prude, I just don't want to answer questions or instill assumptions about what the female body ought to look like based on my own personal grooming habits, and also have some fascinating scars I'd rather not discuss with them, none of which are on my boobs). A few days ago the four-year-old (who was then three--he's just had a birthday) walked into the bathroom as I was stepping out of the shower, looked up at me, and burst out laughing. "Why you got such big NIPPLES mommy," he asked, giggling, "that looks FUNNY!" So while I'm not saying the Nupple is everything your former nipple was, per se, the moral of this story is that 3-year-old boys are lousy judges of tits. Because I have it on good authority that mine are spectacular :)

Anonymous said...

Awwwww not as upbeat as your usual blog, hope you are ok now. Your blog cheers me up no end xx

SB said...

Felix is not scarred, at all. He loves you, nupple and all. We all do. Xxxxxxxxxx

Anonymous said...

My 4 year old daughter has just started full time school. Last week she came home and told me that when it’s her birthday party (which isn’t till Christmas), she is inviting all her class except for one particular girl who has got a funny face...
I tried to get to the bottom of this and asked if perhaps she had had an accident, or had been burnt - all of which resulted in a bemused look.
It just so happened that last thursday was school dinners. and the parents were invited for lunch with their children, so they learn the routine - I went and found myself looking at all the little girls - to see who she was talking about. Everyone looked normal to me.
After the dinner, on the way home, I asked if the little girl in question had not been there that day.
“oh yes she was - and you sat next to her at the dinner table”
The little girl is chubby - nothing wrong with her at all ... I was so surprised by her.

All I can say is - they sometimes haven’t got a clue!

Having two daughters they ask difficult questions all the time... I think you answered his question brilliantly.

Did you have a fun day together?

I always love reading your blog x